Is a split in Congress's Bihar faction imminent?
Rahul Gandhi recently met 27 Bihar Congress MLAs and about 19 of them recommended that they should break the alliance with Lalu Yadav's RJD "for the time being." Rumors also suggest that the Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee chief (BPCC) Ashok Chaudhary has had a tiff with the Congress leadership and so has been missing from meetings. What does this imply? Read on to know.
Why are they making such a demand?
Congress MLA from Bhagalpur Ajit Sharma said that continuing an alliance with Lalu would "weaken the morale of party workers." The Congress's MLAs claim that Lalu has kept the Muslim-Yadav constituencies for his party and has consistently criticized the upper castes. This has affected the Congress's chances in the state. They also feel that Lalu has not shown complete loyalty to the Congress.
Can this rebellion split the party?
Presently, Congress has 27 MLAs in the 243-member Bihar Assembly. The rebels need two-thirds or 18 MLAs to split the party legally. Thus, technically speaking, at present, with 19 MLAs a split is possible.
Is BPCC chief Ashok Chaudhary being sidelined?
BPCC chief Chaudhary said that he was hurt at not being invited to Congress meetings. He has an uneasy relationship with Delhi's congress leadership that handles Bihar, i.e., leaders like CP Joshi and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Chaudhary believes they are spreading rumours that he wishes to split the party. Chaudhary, the Mahagathbandhan's engineer, no longer seems to be in Rahul Gandhi's good books.
Is this a Nitish Kumar-backed rebellion?
A TOI report states that Nitish has kept eight ministerial berths vacant in a bid to lure rebelling Congress MLAs. Further, speculation suggests that Chaudhary has the support of 14 MLAs and needs only four more to cross-over to JD(U). Moreover, Chaudhary and Nitish are known to have an easy working relationship as the former has served in Nitish's cabinet twice.
Who could emerge as a winner?
Lalu's corruption scandals seem to have resulted in the first casualties, if this split becomes a reality. Most dissident Congress MLAs don't hold the mahagathbandhan alliance with Lalu in high regard in lieu of his corruption scandals. If Congress leadership decides to leave Lalu's side to pacify its rebelling MLAs, it would put the mahagathbandhan, i.e. NDA's main opposition, at risk.